NTSB Identification: MIA97GA119.
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Accident occurred Tuesday, April 08, 1997 in WEST PALM BEACH, FL
Probable Cause Approval Date: 05/04/1998
Aircraft: Aerospatiale AS 350B, registration: N370WM
Injuries: 5 Serious.

: NTSB investigators either traveled in support of this investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel, and used data obtained from various sources to prepare this public aircraft accident report.

The day before the accident, spot painting was performed to the upper corners of the windshield, and the mechanic failed to remove the roll of masking material from the canopy. During the preflight without using a checklist, the pilot did not notice the roll of masking material. Weight and balance calculations were not performed by the pilot, and postaccident calculations revealed that the helicopter was 76 pounds over gross weight at takeoff. During the initial climb, a portion of the roll of masking material fell from the helicopter, and about 13 feet wrapped around the main rotor mast. Additionally, about 5 feet was partially sucked over and into the engine inlet. The engine experienced a partial loss of power while climbing about 150 feet agl, with a resulting decrease in main rotor rpm. The low rotor warning was heard by the passengers followed by a hard landing. Postcrash the engine was placed in a test cell and found to operate normally. The checklist does not specifically mention to check the oil cooler inlet area or forward of that area during preflight.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be:

Failure of the pilot-in-command to recognize that the main rotor rpm was decreasing and his failure to maintain the main rotor rpm during the autorotative landing resulting in a hard landing. Contributing to the accident was the partial loss of engine power due to partial blockage of the engine air inlet screen. Also contributing was inadequate inspection of the airplane following maintenance by other maintenance personnel for their failure to remove a paint masking roll from the canopy. Additionally, inadequate preflight of the helicopter by the pilot for his failure to observe the roll of paint masking material and weight and balance exceeded.

Full narrative available

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